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Put a Search Box in Your Site Design

By: Danielle Sahiner, Bruce Clay, Inc., August 2006

Searching is one of the top activities for Internet users. It drives profits for the search engines as well as the marketers listed on the search results pages. A site search box on your company website can increase profitability but is much less common. A new visitor to a website makes decisions quickly. They are looking to accomplish their goals and satisfy whatever need brought them to the page in the first place. Websites, where visitors may or may not find what they need within a click or two, risk losing a chance to convert. A website that is not optimized for search engines probably isn't going to be useful to your visitors either.

Some of the visitors arriving on your site may have clicked a sponsored listing, meaning that it cost you money even if the information can't be found. Many others will come from organic links. Either way, you want to engage them on your site with good navigation and site search before they bail.

Don't Ignore Your Visitors

Incorporating an effective site search capability can prevent site abandonment and eliminate the multitude of brief, one-time visitors. Site search guides users along the conversion path, getting them hooked along the way and encouraging them to explore. It enhances the user experience and helps you deliver multiple marketing messages throughout the user's visit.

The user interaction that begins on a search engine shouldn't end when that user lands on your site. You need to engage users and keep their attention until they complete their objectives. Site search and the information it provides is the key to meeting and surpassing customer expectations, reducing the number of frustrated visitors.

Site search also provides you with a cache of valuable information because your prospects will leave a trail telling you what they want in their own words. You can use the information generated by the seeker's experience to maximize your website functionality. You will also gain access to new keywords that can be used to better optimize your site for organic rankings and for use in your paid search campaigns.

Using Site Search Data

Site search is a valuable marketing resource. You may get your traffic from Google, but it is your own site search that will help you make the sale. That's because with site search you can control the selection and presentation of results.

An efficient site search function can drive conversions for you. It's more than just a box in which your customers type keywords. It can be used to drive promotions and encourage cross-selling and up-selling.

Site search data can be used to identify products and services that your customers want but that you are not currently offering. It can also be used to better position products that are offered but customers can't find.

Identify competitive trends and hone your brand message by leveraging your customers' own words. You can spot customer service issues and make adjustments. You can determine whether or not customers have enough information to take their desired actions. Site search records gather all the data you need to make more relevant offers. Taking action on the intelligence gleaned from site search is sure to boost your profits because you'll get larger orders and more conversions.

Customizing Site Search

Site search and good navigation paired with a well-siloed site is key to giving the user a good experience, and develops the relationship between your brand and the customer. That's what makes site search a top marketing resource. Below are some tips for maximizing this resource.

  • List all major product categories and sub-categories on your home page for easy navigation
  • Put a site search box on every page with content that can lead to further searches
  • Provide site search:
    • on items by brand, price, color, etc.
    • for featured products in every category
    • by brand in every category
    • for best sellers in every category
    • for sale items

Looking Beyond the Landing Page

By looking into the end-to-end customer experience from the search engine to the final destination on your site, you will discover opportunities to take actions that will improve your bottom line. Following is a list of data you should collect and explore.

  • Major abandonment points during the customer experience
  • Items searched for but not found
  • Items offered but not searched for
  • Content pages or categories that promotes further inquiry
  • Information not provided that results in email or telephone contact
  • Conversion rates across products or product categories
  • Number of visitors using site search
  • Site changes that increase or decrease conversions
  • Offers that get the best response

The above data can give you insight into what needs to be modified and improved at various stages in your site's conversion funnel. Upon analysis of this data, you should evaluate the effectiveness of your content, ad spend and offers on revenues and costs. Information from site search belongs on your website and marketing campaign dashboards for performance evaluation.

Increasing Revenues and Reducing Costs

With an investment in site search and the use of analytics, you can increase revenues and reduce costs. That's because you'll have better information on your customers' needs, which will result in more relevant offers and more compelling site design. You'll know what keywords to advertise in your PPC campaigns and which to optimize in your SEO campaign for improved results.

Customer satisfaction will improve as your prospects get a better user experience. When customers find things quickly, they are willing to spend more time on the site and possibly spend more money.

We know that search behavior is a major Internet activity. People love it because it saves time and can provide the answers they need in minutes. Give your customers one more search option on your site and you'll reap significant bottom line rewards.